Parking Initiatives Boost Highway Safety, Executive Says
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WASHINGTON — Enhancing parking availability for truck drivers would improve safety on the nation’s roadways, a senior Iowa trucking executive recently told senators.
During a wide-ranging hearing about transportation safety on Nov. 7, Iowa Motor Truck Association President Brenda Neville called on the Environment and Public Works Committee to endorse legislation meant to expand access for truck parking.
“The priority that we have right now is — as I said in my opening statement — we have 313,000 parking spaces and 3.5 million drivers. So, the shortage is real in every single state. And the option that truck drivers have now is that if they can’t find a space, they are parking on the side of the road. They’re parking on an off-ramp,” Neville said at the EPW hearing. For emphasis, she continued, “We need more truck parking across the nation.”
Also on the trucking industry’s radar is the push for modernizing equipment. Repealing a 12% excise tax on the purchase of new trucks would facilitate efforts to upgrade fleets with newer and safer features, Neville told the Senate panel.
The Iowa trucking executive, representing American Trucking Associations on Capitol Hill, pointed to the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. Co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, the bill would approve grants for state agencies specific for the expansion of truck parking facilities. A companion version of the bill was approved by a House panel earlier this year. Neither version has advanced in its respective chamber.
Kelly is a co-sponsor of the Truck Parking Safety Improvement Act. (C-SPAN3)
“Arizonans rely on trucks to deliver crucial goods. But finding safe, reliable parking is still a challenge for many truckers,” Kelly said on social media on Nov. 7. “And they need that parking to get the job done. That’s why I’m working to make our roads safer by expanding freight truck parking.”
The American Transportation Research Institute ranked the inability to quickly access parking second on its Top Industry Issues list for 2023. To improve parking access, ATRI suggested advocating for a dedicated federal funding program designed to increase capacity at freight-centric locations as well as a reduction of “regulatory burdens limiting the construction and expansion of truck parking facilities.” Also, ATRI proposed further researching the link between parking availability and highway safety.
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that 42,795 individuals died in 2022 in motor vehicle traffic crashes. In response to this national safety crisis, congressional transportation policymakers and the Biden administration point to highway safety programs launched by 2021’s bipartisan infrastructure law.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, for instance, has touted ongoing programs and funding opportunities meant to improve highway safety and truck parking availability. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently awarded South Dakota a $61.1 million grant for freight corridor improvements, including the expansion of truck parking facilities.
Trucks parked at a rest stop along Interstate 81 in Virginia. (Joe Howard/Transport Topics)
“Truck parking is a great example of an unglamorous issue that has actually proven to be a life safety issue,” Buttigieg said on Oct. 25. “And, ultimately, a supply chain issue because it’s becoming a factor in our ability as a country to recruit and retain [the] kind of truck drivers we need, who sometimes will leave the career because of issues like the inability to find convenient, reliable, predictable access to safe parking.”
Of the 12% excise tax on the purchase of new trucks, Neville said the World War I-era tax acts as a persistent hindrance on the industry’s aim to fully transition to new trucks. As she put it, “Congress must eliminate the 12% federal excise tax on new trucks and trailers that creates a disincentive to purchasing and deploying equipment with the latest safety and emissions technologies.”
“Adding a 12% federal surcharge — which amounts to an additional $25,000 to the cost of new equipment on average — is a significant disincentive,” she continued. “This tax is anti-safety and should be abolished.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), a member of the EPW committee, is co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would repeal the tax. The Modern, Clean, and Safe Trucks Act has yet to be considered by a committee of jurisdiction. “It’s time to repeal this outdated and onerous tax on our Hoosier truckers,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a co-sponsor.
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